Pets allowed
Elevation Gain
4,843.00 ft (1,476.15 m)
Trail type
23.90 mi (38.46 km)
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The Continental Divide National Scenic Trail spans nearly 3,100 miles across 5 states from Mexico to Canada, exploring a vast array of different environments and landscapes along the way. The CDT can be completed as a single thru-hike that will take 4 to 6 months, or by section-hiking smaller segments. The Colorado portion of the CDT features 800 miles of stunning and challenging high altitude hiking. Highlights include the South San Juans, Collegiate Peaks, 14,270 foot Grays Peak, Rocky Mountain National Park, and the Mount Zirkel Wilderness. In this guide we’ll take a closer look at Colorado Section 23.

Colorado Section 23 is a long and varied section of the CDT. It starts from near Sheep Gulch Trailhead. It immediately begins a steep and unrelenting climb up to Hope Pass. The climb begins through some Aspen forest, and then eventually breaks above treeline. Switchbacks lead up the exposed hillside until finally you reach the pass. The views from here are absolutely stunning.

The trail then descends steeply for the next couple miles. After this brutal descent you’ll finally hit bottom, near Twin Lakes, and have mellow hiking as the trail loops all the way around these two large lakes. Many CDT hikers however will choose to take an alternate route that cuts several miles off and leads directly through the small town of Twin Lakes.

To take this alternate continue straight instead of turning right. You’ll follow a faint 4x4 road across a wetland area. The crux of the alternate is the crossing of Lake Creek. This creek is more like a proper river, and the crossing can be treacherous depending on water levels. If crossing in mid summer expect a knee high depth and strong current.

After the crossing continue along the 4x4 road until you reach a paved road. Turn right and walk the mile or so into Twin Lakes where there is a general store and two food trucks. Then backtrack slightly and turn right onto the gravel forest road which leads to the Twin Lakes Cutoff Trail. This trail then leads back to the CDT.

Turn left on the CDT and you’re now back on track! You’ll soon come to the South Mt Elbert Trail junction, where you can turn left to climb the tallest mountain in the state of Colorado. If doing so, you can return to the CDT via the Mt Elbert Northeast Ridge Trail, thus avoiding any need to backtrack.

Otherwise continue along the mellow trail as it meanders through some nice forested terrain, including some Aspens. After the junction with the Mt Elbert Northeast Ridge Trail the CDT then descends steadily until it reaches Halfmoon Creek. There is some space to camp here, as well as a trailhead and busy gravel road. This marks the end of Section 23.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)




Parking Pass


Open Year-round



Stunning views from Hope Pass. Option to climb Mt Elbert.


Steep climbs and descents.

Trailhead Elevation

10,110.00 ft (3,081.53 m)

Highest point

12,514.00 ft (3,814.27 m)


Near lake or river
Backcountry camping
Big vistas

Typically multi-day


Permit required



Nearby Lodging + Camping


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